Try As They Might, This 2009 Marlins Squad Is Not the 2003 Squad
After the 2008 season, the Marlins front office had three goals: Abandon the "all-or-nothing" offense, solidify the starting rotation, and cut down on errors.
As of this morning, the Marlins are in the same position they were a year ago—on the outside looking in on both the NL East & Wild Card races. They have just become victims of a one-hit showing by the ageless wonder, Jamie Moyer, and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Defensively, the errors of former first baseman Mike Jacobs have been easily replaced by the errors by middle infielder-turned-third baseman, Emilio Bonifacio.
The pitching (past the 1-2 combo Josh Johnson & Ricky Nolasco) is still in a state of flux, as resident left-hander Andrew Miller and homegrown product Chris Volstad have been unable to string together enough quality starts to be considered consistent. Let's not forget Anibal Sanchez, who hasn't been able to stay healthy, and the recently demoted Sean West.
In theory, this change in philosophy was a great idea, as it would mean going back to the foundation that brought them a World Series victory in 2003.
That team had a 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup (Juan Pierre & Luis Castillo) that not only knew how to put the ball in play, but also were arguably top-notch defenders at their respective positions.
While there was offensive power in rookie Miguel Cabrera & first baseman Derek Lee, the focal point of the entire lineup was to hit for contact.
The rotation had a level of one-upsmanship, where Josh Beckett & Brad Penny fed off of one another's starts and were consistently putting the team in a position to win. Even journeyman Mark Redman had a career year (and also fueled the theory of only having winning seasons when his wife gave birth). Let's not forget a rookie left-hander that joined the team mid-season and was a shot in the arm: Dontrelle Willis.
The philosophy shift intended for this incarnation of the Marlins has failed, thus far. To be honest, this roster had quite a few "ifs" to it to start the season.
The Marlins would be playoff contenders if:
* The starting pitching stays healthy & consistent
* The offense exhibits better pitch selection
* The defense cuts down on errors
Although these are still pressing issues, it's still too soon to declare the deals made in the offseason to be total failures.
By trading one-trick pony first baseman Mike Jacobs to the Royals, the Marlins did receive a young, hard-throwing setup man in Leo Nunez.
The only deal that the jury is still out on is the one that sent Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen to the Nationals for Bonifacio. It should still be considered a even trade, as Willingham has spent most of the season fighting for playing time on a 26-62 team and Olsen has limped his way to an ERA above 6.00.
Bonifacio has shown flashes of what the deal was meant to bring to the team: speed, defense and contact hitting. However, he falls into the same pit as most of this team, and that's consistency issues.
So as the much-hyped trade deadline looms, what does this team do to stay competitive?
Aside from maybe a deal for a relief pitcher (Matt Capps or George Sherrill), the best move at this point is to stand pat. Does this necessarily mean the current roster is the one they'll win with?
It's tough to say, as it would all be speculation and it's usually tough to read what Larry Beinfest & company are going to do until a deal is actually done.
The philosophy change will have to wait until the offseason again. This team has already forged its identity. The question is whether or not this identity will be enough to take them to new heights in the next few months.
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